“Because Paz is so lovely, scenes where [our characters] bonded were some of the most natural and fun to shoot,” says Paz Vegas’s Grace of Monaco costar Nicole Kidman.
Paz Vega has a fascination with playing real-life people. “You try to give the character more respect in a way,” says the 37-year-old Spanish actress, recalling the movie she shot this summer about author Paulo Coelho in Brazil. But as she prepares for the release of Grace of Monaco, where she portrays the equally talented and tempestuous Maria Callas, Vega admits she’s relieved not to have to seek the approval of the late Greek soprano. “Probably, if Maria Callas were still alive, I would never have said yes to this project—she’s a lot!”
Although she would be anxious about encountering the singer in person, getting a little taste of Callas—who, through her relationship with Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis, became one of Princess Grace’s closest friends—whetted Vega’s appetite for further exploration.
“I admire her as a singer, of course, but her life is fantastic,” she says. “She represents the real Greek tragedy because she fell in love with the not-right person. And I love her because she’s so passionate, and she always wanted to be perfect—the best singer, the best wife. She tried to be the best, but she couldn’t at the end. It’s a beautiful story.”
The daughter of a Spanish bullfighter father and a homemaker mom relates to the opera singer’s unwavering pursuit for success after having spent eight years of her youth swimming competitively and taking that mentality with her into acting. “I remember when I was young, perfection was the goal, but now I believe that the goal is not to be perfect,” she says. “It’s good to want to improve yourself, always, but it doesn’t have to be the center of your life. The goal is to try to live happily and peacefully with yourself and the people who are around you.”
What brings Vega true joy these days is holing up in her West Hollywood home with her husband of 11 years, Venezuelan businessman Orson Salazar, and their three children. “I watch them every day, growing healthy and happy,” she gushes about her 3-, 4-and 6-year-old kids. “It makes me happy to have the perfect man who supports me, my job, and as a woman in so many ways.”
It was the topic of motherhood that turned Vega and her costar, Nicole Kidman, into fast friends as they portrayed Callas and Grace Kelly under far more glamorous circumstances than their usual day-to-day with young kids. “Because Paz is so lovely, scenes where we, as Grace and Maria, bonded were some of the most natural and fun to shoot—even while we filmed on horseback!”Â” says Kidman. “Â“Paz and I have a lot in common in making family our biggest priority. I know what it means to be anchored by family, no matter what else is going on. Paz and I share that fundamental principle.”
“She’s phenomenal,” says Vega of Kidman. “It’s fantastic when you go to a set and you can find another mother with the same problems and the same stress you are experiencing. It’s a relief—like you are not alone in this world.” Indeed, unlike Callas, who notoriously spent her last years by herself, Vega stays surrounded by family and friends and lots of chaos—which might just be her very definition of perfection.